WELLINGTON (Reuters) - One test All Blacks centre Charlie Ngatai will make his return to Super Rugby on Saturday after almost a year out of the game due to concussion.
The 26-year-old, who made his test debut against Samoa in 2015 and was then selected in the All Blacks squad last year but never played due to the concussion, will start for the Waikato Chiefs against the Queensland Reds in New Plymouth.
Ngatai sustained the injury playing against the Otago Highlanders on May 7, 2016 and was ruled out for the rest of the year as he failed to overcome the symptoms.
He returned to the field for his lower level club side three weeks ago and gradually built how many minutes he played, with Chiefs coach Dave Rennie saying earlier this week he was pleased with the centre’s return.
”Obviously really nice for Charlie, it’s been a long period for him,“ Rennie said earlier this week. ”But he’s worked really hard, he’s got himself in good nick.
“We’ve all been really cautious around it. He’s confident. So fantastic to have him back in. In my opinion, he was probably the best player in Super Rugby until he got injured last year.”
Ngatai will link with Anton Lienert-Brown in the centres for the clash in New Plymouth.
Lienert-Brown was arguably the player who benefited the most from Ngatai’s absence last year, being plucked from virtual obscurity by All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and impressing enough to earn nine caps.
All Blacks hooker Nathan Harris will also make his Super Rugby return after he suffered a knee injury last August.
The 25-year-old suffered the injury while in camp with the All Blacks and was the second serious injury to strike the mobile hooker in his career.
He also suffered a bad ankle injury while playing the United States in late 2014, which ruled him out for much of 2015.
His return, from the bench, could not have come at a better time for Hansen with his first-choice hooker Dane Coles under an injury cloud in the final weeks before the British and Irish Lions tour.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty